Tom Jolliffe chats with director Ara Paiaya about his new film Skin Traffik…
British action director Ara Paiaya has stopped by at Flickering Myth to talk about his upcoming film Skin Traffik (featuring Gary Daniels, Mickey Rourke, Michael Madsen, Darryl Hannah, Jeff Fahey and Eric Roberts). Paiaya grew up studying martial arts, before developing a passion for film-making and began producing his own films. As well as directing he’s served as actor, producer, cinematographer, cameraman, writer, fight choreograph and editor on his films. A man of many talents.
Tom Jolliffe: Who or what inspired you to get into martial arts?
Ara Paiaya: Originally my Dad. I was already learning martial arts before being old enough to watch action films as I was around five years old when I started. However by the time I was in the middle of primary school I was watching films like Enter the Dragon starring Bruce Lee. So Bruce Lee became a big influence and was my first exposure to a martial arts film. The biggest influence however in terms of pushing me to train harder in martial arts fight scenes, acrobatics and stunts came from the Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan films of the 80’s and early 90’s. I would go through every film and practise each martial arts move or acrobatic stunt until I could do it. Storyboarding angles and camera movements most commonly used for particular techniques.
TJ: As an actor who do you aspire to?
AP: Sammo Hung. A side story here was I actually considered him for a role in Skin Traffik but according to his agent he was not available for any action related fight scenes only dialogue scenes. I had intended to have a fight scene between Sammo Hung and Gary Daniels.
TJ: How about as a filmmaker? Which directors have had the greatest influence on your own style as a director?
AP: The biggest influences are Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan, John Woo, Yuen Woo Ping, Sergio Leone. I have my own style which must have been influenced by all the above. I think I’ve absorbed many different styles of filmmaking and techniques from around the world without actually being aware of it. I didn’t go to film school; I just watched a lot of films. I’m completely self-taught.
TJ: Of all the film-making hats you wear, from acting, directing and the rest, which do you see yourself as primarily?
AP: A Director. Filmmaking has always been my passion. I enjoy all aspects of filmmaking; over the years I’ve learned how to do all the jobs. I started filmmaking at home as a kid. It was just me and a camera and a group of friends (willing to take a hit). I learned filming, lighting, sound design, VFX, editing etc. so I could make a film from start to finish myself. I would star in the films too, using it as a platform to showcase my martial arts and stunts. I would even set up and frame each shot myself on a tripod, which was very time consuming then jump in front of the camera and act.
TJ: In all your films you have balanced a hefty work load, from acting, writing, directing, editing, doing your own stunts, and more. How do you cope with managing all the aspects of each, and ensuring you deliver the goods in each department?
AP: It’s important to balance the work load. Have good time management. When I film I’m editing in my head at the same time so I know what I want and what I need for that scene. As far as delivering the goods, it’s just doing your best with the budget, talent, resources and time available.
TJ: Skin Traffik marks your biggest film to date. The cast on paper is incredible. How difficult is it to get so many big names together for an independent production, and how did you find working with so many legends in the business.
AP: As you can imagine it’s near impossible to get so many big names together in an independent film. It helped that I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve. All my previous passion projects before this was my track record and I was obviously serious about taking my films to another level. For them to all come on board is very cool.
TJ: With films like The Expendables franchise and The Avengers, the ensemble film seems to be very popular at the moment. Even in the straight to video world, more films are bringing together impressive cast lists in order to sell a movie, do you think it’s becoming harder to sell a picture off the back of just one star name these days?
AP: I think the ensemble cast is trending just now in films more than ever. But I don’t think it’s because one star name is not enough.
TJ: Gary Daniels has established himself as a popular lead in the straight to video action realm for over 20 years. Did you always have him in mind as the lead? What does he bring to the picture?
AP: Gary Daniels is very talented and perfect for this film. Skin Traffik is an action packed film, so when casting the lead actor I wanted someone with experience working on action movies and used to physically demanding fight and stunt scenes. I’m very particular on how I choreograph and shoot the fight scenes and it’s very demanding on the actor. Gary was fantastic in the role.
TJ: Can you tell us a little bit about Skin Traffik and what action fans can expect?
AP: Without giving too much away. There’s a variety of action scenes in interesting locations. It’s fast paced and there’s plenty of kills along the way.
TJ: Do you have any release date set for Skin Traffik yet, and will you be taking it to the Cannes Film market?
AP: The film has sold worldwide and will be out in 2015. The release dates are yet to be confirmed.
TJ: What do you have planned after Skin Traffik?
AP: Instant Death. It’s a film about a vicious gang war for drug dominance draws in disturbed Special Forces veteran Bradley. Trying to adjust to normal life and haunted by visions of a violent past, the underworld’s retribution on Bradley’s last connection to humanity, his sister and niece, drive him into a descent of fury and violence that not even the brutality of gangland is prepared for.
TJ: What advice do you have for an aspiring actors and filmmakers out there?
AP: Keep at it and never give up if you’re passionate about something.
TJ: Finally, besides Skin Traffik of course, what is the action film to see this year?
AP: James Bond of course.
TJ: Many thanks for your time.
AP: Thank you.
Visit www.arapaiaya.com for the latest news.